Associate Professor of German
Education and Degree(s):
- Ph.D., Duke University
- M.A., Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany
- B.A., Peking University, China
- Postcolonial studies, Cosmopolitanism, Transculturality
- Travel Narrative, Philosophy of History, Tragedy and Melodrama, World Literature
- Eighteenth Century Studies
- Global Modernisms
- Asian-German Studies
- Refugee and Migration Studies
I am an associate professor of German and affiliated faculty in Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, East Asian Studies, Critical Theory, Global Migration Center, and Religious Studies Graduate Group.
The core trajectory of my intellectual pursuits has been exploring global and transcultural perspectives in the study and teaching of literature, culture, and ideas. My areas of research interest include the long eighteenth century, global modernisms, Asian-European studies, contemporary refugee literature, and postcolonialism. I serve on the editorial board of The German Quarterly and on the advisory board of Eighteenth-Century Studies and also serve as a director-at-large of the Goethe Society of North America. I co-edit the book series “Asia, Europe, and Global Connections” with Routledge. My research has been supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Volkswagen Foundation, Mellon Foundation, Hellman Foundation, NEH, and the DAAD.
Currently, I am finishing a book manuscript The Quest for Liberation: Philosophy and the Making of World Cultures in China and the West, 1900—1960. Often referring to Kant and the European Enlightenment as its intellectual source, the debate on cosmopolitanism aims to overcome the singularity of nation as a conceptual paradigm in the postcolonial age of global capitalism. Yet, in addition to this Western lineal history of cosmopolitanism, the spatial perspective of global intellectual history reveals that, in the first half of the twentieth century, both Chinese and Western thinkers engaged with Eastern and Western philosophies to envision new cultural forms for the world. Their less-studied ideas broke new grounds in ethics, religion, justice, and sexuality beyond the European lineage. They contributed to the decisive shift from nation to trans-nation in quest of a new rationalism, promising greater liberation from inherited traditions and serving as the moral foundation for all. Their vision of an ontological common for the world will help imagine a better world community in our time of global crises and deepen mutual appreciations between China and the West.
My first book Transculturality and German Discourse in the Age of European Colonialism (Northwestern UP 2017) situates German literature and philosophy in the polycentric world of the eighteenth century. While the Enlightenment is commonly related to the process of nation building, my book delineates the contour of a transcultural discourse, in which I highlight the influence of non-European cultures on German thinking in a key period of global modernity between 1756 and 1835. Although German intellectuals were fascinated with non-European cultures, the German lands, unlike Britain and France, did not have a central political power and colonies of their own. This difference challenges the basic assumptions of the critique of Empire and the Orientalist representations. Yet German thinkers also developed seminal (and disturbing) concepts such as racial hierarchy and historicist thinking about civilizations. This fact makes it difficult to uncritically embrace Enlightenment legacy. Moving beyond the question of empire or enlightenment, I use the German case as a less-trodden path to shift ground from predominantly critiquing Eurocentrism toward diligently detecting global connections and enhancing the visibility of non-European contributions in global modernity. Non-European cultures are not exotic or on the margins – rather they perform a constitutive force in the German discourse in the age of European colonial expansion. The South Pacific travel writings by George Forster and Adelbert von Chamisso, dramas and Robinsonades by August von Kotzebue and Johann Joachim Campe, Herder’s philosophy of history, and Kant’s theory of geography—all these works demonstrate important elements of a transcultural consciousness next to nationalist movements. The term “German” in my book does not mean the national tradition of literature and culture that defines German identity. Rather this term refers to the language that connects cultural communities spreading across the European continent and registers heterogeneous interactions between German, European, and non-European cultures in a global genealogy.
My edited book Composing Modernist Connections in China and Europe (Routledge, 2019) uses Bruno Latour’s concept of compositionism to stress modernist connections within literature, culture, history, and media beyond the nation state and the bifurcation between East and West. Moving beyond deconstruction, this book composes and forges new combinations, linkages, and translations that place Chinese and European modernisms on equal footing. In the co-edited journal issue “Goethe, Worlds, and Literatures” (Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies, 2018), my co-editors and I explore the making of Goethe as a classical writer for the concept of world literature. We endeavor to show the different constructions of Goethe’s image in various historical and cultural contexts. We break the phrase of world literature into worlds and literatures in order to highlight the multiplicity in the long reception history of Goethe’s works around the world. I also edited the scholarly forum on “Asian German Studies” with the journal German Quarterly (93. 1, Winter 2020) to discuss the state of this emerging interdisciplinary field and its teaching and research potentials for the future. Contributors review themes such as Chinese-German, Japanese-German, Indian-German, Vietnamese-German connections in relation to exile studies, Turkish-German studies, global German studies, and transpacific German studies.
I co-directed the research cluster and interdisciplinary digital project Migration and Aesthetics at UC Davis in the academic year 2020-2021. In the past, I chaired the program committee of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and also chaired the committee for the DAAD/GSA book prize in literature and cultural studies at the German Studies Association.
Transculturality and German Discourse in the Age of European Colonialism (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, May 2017).
Reviewed in: 1. German Quarterly 91:2 (2018), 230-32; Goethe Yearbook25 (2018), 329-30; 2. The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, and Theory, 93:2 (2018), 212-214; 3. Goethe Yearbook 25 (2018), 329-30. 4. German Studies Review 42:1 (2019), 145-47; 5. H-Net: H-TGS by Matthew Erlin, March, 2019, https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=53125; 6. German Politics and Society 37:1 (2019), 95-98; 7. The Journal of Pacific History, https://doi.org/10.1080/00223344.2019.1690939; 8. Zeitschrift für interkulturelle Germanistik 11:2 (2020), 235-39;
Edited Book and Journal Issues
- "Aesthetics and Politics in the Wake of Enlightenment," edited with Gabriel Trop, a special issue of The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory 95: 4 (2020).
- "Asian German Studies," Forum in German Quarterly 93:1 (2020), 106-142.
- Composing Modernist Connections in China and Europe (London and New York: Routledge, Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature, 2019)
- "Goethe, Worlds, and Literatures," edited with Daniel Purdy and Stefan Uhlig, a special issue of Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies 54:2 (2018).
- “Bertolt Brecht’s Me-ti and the Aesthetics of Translation: Universal Love, Mutual Benefit, and Transience,” in Germany From the Outside: Rethinking German Cultural History in an Age of Displacement, ed. Laurie Johnson (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022), 303-22.
- “Max Weber’s Confucian Care of the Self,” Critical Inquiry 48, no. 3 (Spring 2022), 594-610.
- “Chinese Rural Realism: Rereading Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth (1931),” Zeithistorische Forschungen / Studies in Contemporary History 18, no. 2 (2021), 363-370.
- “Identity Freedom or On Choosing Who We Are,” in On Being Adjacent to Historical Violence, ed. Irene Kacandes (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2021), 140-157.
- "Hope in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre: Affect Theory, Potentiality, Mistake and Change," The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory 95:4 (2020): 278-294.
- "Aesthetics and Politics in the Wake of Enlightenment: Jonathan Hess in Memoriam," co-authored with Gabriel Trop, The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory 95:4 (2020), 237-240.
- "Remembering Colonialism and Encountering Refugees: Decolonization in Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone,” European Review 30, no. 1 (2022), 134-149. (open access https://www.doi.org/10.1017/S1062798720000368)
- "Introduction: What Is Asian German Studies,” German Quarterly 93:1 (2020), 106-109.
- "Anna Segher's Ideological Melodrama, Qian Zhongshu's Cosmopolitan Satire, or On Comparison," in Composing Modernist Connections (Routledge, 2019), 32-49.
- "Introduction: Latour Compositionism and Global Modernisms," in Composing Modernist Connections (Routledge, 2019), 1-10.
- "Introduction: Goethe, Worlds, and Literatures," co-authored with Stefan Uhlig, in Seminar: A Jounral of Germanic Studies 54: 2 (2018), 121-32.
- "Garden Empire or the Sublime Politics of the Chinese-Gothic Style," in Goethe Yearbook 25 (2018), 77-96.
- "Mathias Christian Sprengel: Slavery, the American Revolution, and Historiography as Radical Enlightenment," The Radical Enlightenment in Germany: A Cultural Perspective, ed. Carl Niekerk (Amsterdam: Brill/Ropodi, 2018), 163-83.
- "Krusoe Robinsons Abenteuer. Technik, Identität und maritimes Bewusstsein in deutschen Robinsonaden um 1800," Pazifikismus. Poetiken des Stillen Ozeans, ed. Johannes Görbert and Mario Kumekawa (Würzburg: Könighausen & Neumann, 2017), 157-172.
- "Goethe's Chinesisch-deutsche Jahres- und Tageszeiten: Vernacular Universality, Erotica Sinica and the Temporality of Nachträglichkeit," Reading the Past Across Space and Time: Receptions and World Literature, eds. Brenda Schildgen and Ralph Hexter (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 245-264.
- "The Islander Kadu and Adelbert von Chamisso: Relations in Oceania," The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 58:1 (2017), 79-98.
- "August von Kotzebue's Bruder Moritz, der Sonderling and German Transcultural Consciousness around 1800,” German Studies Review 38:1 (2015), 1-16.
- "Reading Goethe's Elective Affinities through The Story of the Stone: Immanent Divinity, Vegetative Femininity, and Nature's Transience," German Literature as World Literature, ed. Thomas Beebee (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2014), 25-42.
- "Geschichtsphilosophie zwischen Eurozentrismus und Kritik der kolonialen Praxis: Johann Gottfried Herders Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der Menschheit,” Herder und seine Wirkung, ed. Michael Maurer (Heidelberg: Synchron, 2014), 361-70.
- "German Indophilia, Femininity, and Transcultural Symbiosis around 1800,” Imagining Germany Imagining Asia: Essays in Asian-German Studies, eds. Veronika Fuechtner and Mary Rhiel (Columbia, SC: Camden House, 2013), 204-19.
- "Georg Forster in Tahiti: Sentimentalism, Enlightenment, and the Intrusion of the South Seas,” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 36:2 (2013), 263-277.
- "From Sinophilia to Sinophobia: China, History, and Recognition,” Colloquia Germanica 2 (2008): 97-110. (actual publication year 2010).
- "Das Exotische als Scheinwelt. Die China-Rezeption in Die Blendung von Elias Canetti,” Literaturstraße. Chinesisch-deutsches Jahrbuch für Sprache, Literatur und Kultur 5 (2004): 23-42. (translated and published as "Social Disintegration and Chinese Culture: The Reception of China in Die Blendung,” The Worlds of Elias Canetti, eds. William Donahue and Julian Preece (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007), 127-50.)
- “What's lost when we're too afraid to touch the world around us?," in The Conversation, April 17, 2020.
- “A Conversation about Asylum Seekers in Germany and Jenny Erpenbeck's Novel Gehen, Ging, Gegangen,” co-authored with Julie Allen and Sabine Zimmermann, EuropeNow 30 (October 2019).
- "Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in Lu Xun’s Foreign-Language Book Collections,” Lu Xun Research Monthly 12 (2011): 92-94 (in Chinese).
- "Gerhart Hauptmann’s The Weavers in Lu Xun’s Foreign-Language Book Collections,” Lu Xun Research Monthly 11 (2011): 86-87 (in Chinese).
- Review of Romana Weiershausen, Zeitenwandel als Familiendrama (Bielefeld: Aisthesis Verlag, 2018), Zeitschrift für Germanistik XXIX (2019), no. 3, 632-34.
- Review of Hartmut Böhme, Natur und Figur. Goethe im Kontext (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 2016), German Quarterly, 91.4 (2018), 488-491.
- Review of Norbert Mecklenburg, Goethe. Inter- und transkulturelle poetische Spiele (München: Iudicium, 2014), German Quarterly (90) 2017, no. 1, 92-94.
- Review of Iris Idelson-Shein, Difference of a Different Kind: Jewish Constructions of Race During the Long Eighteenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies 40 (2017), no. 2, 321-22.
- Review of Qinna Shen and Martin Rosenstock (eds.), Beyond Alterity: German Encounters with Modern East Asia (New York: Berghahn Books, 2014), The Germanic Review 90 (2015), issue 3, 1-3.
- Review of Sonia Sikka, Herder on Humanities and Cultural Difference (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), German Studies Review 39 (2016), no. 2, 376-78.
- Review of David G. John, Bennewitz, Goethe, Faust: German and Intercultural Stagings (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012), German Studies Review 39 (2016), no. 1, 165-68.
- Review of Katharina Mommsen, Orient und Okzident sind nicht mehr zu trennen: Goethe und die Weltkulturen (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2012), German Quarterly 86 (2013), 4 (485-87).
- Review of Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in the World of Strangers (New York and London: W. W. Norton 2012), China Book Review 中国图书评论 10 (2013): 90-95.
- Review of Elisabeth Johanna Koehn, Daniela Schmidt, Johannes-Georg Schülein, Johannes Weiß, and Paula Wojcik (eds.), Andersheit um 1800. Figuren – Theorien – Darstellungsformen (Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2011), German Studies Review 35 (2012), 2: 399-401.
- GER/COM 011 Travel and the Modern World (from the eighteenth century to the present)
- GER 101B Introduction to German Literature from 1800 to the Present (taught in German)
- GER 120 Introduction to German Culture (focus on refugee crisis or on multimediality, taught in German)
- GER 168 German Multiculturalism
- GER 297 What Is Enlightenment
- GER 297 Cultural Encounters and Transcultural Imaginations (graduate)
- GER 297 Cosmopolitanism: History and Meaning (graduate)
- GER 297 China, Europe, and Representation I: History, Capitalism, and Vitality (graduate)
- GER 297 China, Europe, and Representation II: Aestheticism, Modernization, and New-Confucian Cosmopolitanism
Selected Talks and Presentations:
Max Weber and the Enchantment of Charisma, Cambridge German Research Colloquium, University of Cambridge, November 2021
Confluence, a Conversation with Ilija Trojanow, Archives of Migration, Lecture Series at UC Davis and UC Berkeley, October 2021
World as Method in the Early Twentieth Century: A Comparative Perspective, Worlds of Literature – Competing Notions of the Global, Freie Universität, Berlin, July 2021
Remembering Colonialism and Encountering Refugees in Jenny Erpenbeck's Gehen, ging, gegangen, MLA, Seattle, January 2020
Max Weber, China, Foucault, and the Care of the Self, Universität Göttingen, Germany, May 2018
Empire Studies and Asian German Studies, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany, November 2017
The De-Political of the Political: Refuge, Identity, and Vulnerability, University of Sydney, Australia, October 2017
Transculturality and German Discourse, Institute of European Studies, University of California, Berkeley, September 2017
Garden Empire or the Sublime Politics of the Chinese-Gothic Style, University of Tokyo, Japan, July 2017
Goethe’s Vernacular Universal, German Studies Association, San Diego, Septmber 2016
Marxism, Moism, and the Philosophical Language in Bertolt Brecht's Novel Me-ti or the Book of Transformation,” International Comparative Literature Association Congress, Vienna, July 2016
Noble Savage, Sexuality and the Lapérouse Expedition in the Pacific,” Transpacific Early America (panel), American Literature Association Annual Conference, San Francisco, May 2016
Transculturality and German Discourse around 1800,” Seminar Enlightenment and Revolution, Humanities Center, Stanford University, April 2016
Krusoe Robinson's Adventure: Technology of the Self and Double Consciousness," Poetiken des Pazifiks, Freie Universität Berlin, July 2015
Adelbert von Chamisso in der Südsee, 1815-1817," Ringvorlesung "Emotion und Ethnizität," Universität Trier, January 2015
Immanuel Kant's Physical Geography: Authorship, Spatiality, and Cosmopolitan Practice," How Radical was the Enlightenment, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, November 7-9, 2013
World Travel, Relation, and German Transcultural Consciousness around 1800," Annual Conference of American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Cleveland, OH, April 2013
Connected by Water: The Global Left and Avant-garde Filmmakers from Germany and China in the 1930s," Annual Conference of Society for Cinema and Media Studies, Boston, March 2012
Chinese Gardens in Eighteenth-Century Germany,” Reading China during the German Enlightenment, Pennsylvania State University, February 2012
Orientalism and Female Noble Savage in August von Kotzebue’s East Indians (1789),” Annual Conference of German Studies Association, Louisville, Kentucky, September 2011
Melodramatic Realism and Cosmopolitan Satire: Anna Seghers’s The Wayfarers and Qian Zhongshu’s Fortress Besieged,” NEH Summer Seminar, Stanford University, August 2011
Popularization of the South Seas in German Discourse Around 1800,” Third European Congress on World and Global History, London School of Economics & Political Science, Great Britain, April 2011
August von Kotzebue’s Transnational Melodrama: Sentimentalism, Sexuality, and Refusal of Tragedy in Brother Moritz (1795),” Columbia University, March 2011
Pacific Cannibalism and Cultural Identity in Georg Forster’s Reise um die Welt (1778),” Annual Conference of the German Studies Association, Oakland, CA, October 2010
Georg Forster and Postcolonial Criticism: Natural History, Sentimentalism, and the Intrusion of the South Sea,” Dartmouth College, January 2010
Herder’s China Reception: Intra-European Obsessions or Response to Intercultural Challenges,” Annual Conference of the German Studies Association, Washington, DC, October 2009
From Sinophilia to Sinophobia: the Image of China, the Universal, and the Recognition From Afar,” Workshop “Visions of the World: History, Form, and Function of Universalism,” Duke University, April 2009
August von Kotzebue’s Virgin of the Sun: Colonial Desire or the Challenges of Cultural Differences,” Annual Conference of American Comparative Literature Association, Harvard University, March 2009
August von Kotzebue and Postcolonial Criticism: Sexuality, Sentimentalism and the Refusal of Tragedy,”UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University Departments of German Work in Progress Series, Durham, NC, November 2008
Johann Gottfried Herders Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der Menschheit: Geschichtsphilosophie zwischen Eurozentrismus und Kritik an kolonialer Praxis,” Biennial Conference of the International Herder Society, Jena, Germany, August 2008
Herder’s Theory of Historical Empathy,” International Graduate Student Conference Empathy, Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften (IFK), Vienna, Austria, July 2008
Between the Critique of Colonial Practice and Eurocentrism: Herder’s Philosophy of History in Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der Menschheit,” 61st Annual Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, Lexington, Kentucky, April 2008
Cultural Critique or Eurocentrism: Perception of Foreignness in Johann Gottfried Herder’s Universal Historicism,” Topography of Otherness: 33rd Annual Conference of the Southern Comparative Literature Association, Raleigh, NC, October 2007
Sozialer Zerfall und das Chinesische. Über die China-Rezeption in Canettis Die Blendung,” The Worlds of Elias Canetti, Centenary Conference, University of Kent at Canterbury, UK, July 2005
Honors and Awards:
- Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers, 2018-2021
- DAAD Research Grant, 2017
- Hellman Fellowship, 2015-2016
- Volkswagen/Mellon Fellowship, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany, 2014-2015
- ETRA Grant for Hybrid Course Development, Academic Technologies Center, UC Davis, 2013
- Eleanore and Harold Jantz Research Travel Fellowship, Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, September 2013
- NEH Summer Seminar Fellowship, Stanford University, 2011
- Harper Schmidt Fellowship, Society of Fellows, University of Chicago, 2011-2015 (declined)
- INTERACT Postdoctoral Fellowship, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University, 2010-2011
- Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Fellowship for Dissertation Completion and Undergraduate Instruction, Duke University, 2009-2010
- Campus Activity Grant for Graduate Student Workshop “Visions of the World,” The Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University, 2009
- Summer Research Fellowship, Graduate School, Duke University, 2008
- Summer Research & Training Fellowship, Duke University Center for International Studies, Duke University, 2005